Cowboy Coffee: The Wild West Elixir

A cowboy is riding his horse late in the night. Only the sound of the horse’s hooves hitting the ground can be heard for miles around. Tired after a long day of riding, he decides to make camp in a small clearing and goes about setting up. He starts a fire and pulls out a tin pot, ground coffee, and builds a fire. He fills the kettle with water, pours the ground coffee in, and patiently waits for the coffee to boil. After a couple of minutes, he pours himself a cup and sips the coffee. The coffee flavor is strong, and he had to spit out some coffee grounds but he was thankful for the warmth it provided he thought to himself as he drank the last drop from the cup and got ready for sleep. 

Contrary to Hollywood depiction in old western movies, where cowboys frequent bars and keep a bottle of alcohol ready, coffee was a huge part of old western cowboy culture.  How did the term cowboy coffee come about? How exactly is it prepared you ask? I know, you’re full of questions so keep reading and the answers are right below!

Coffee popularity in the US

The US used to be a British Colony and so tea, which was a favored drink by the British, was seen as a sign of British rule. This ideology was further fueled by the high taxes placed on tea by King George. The Boston tea party is seen as a sign of direct revolt of the British as Americans rushed British ships and dumped tea worth millions into the sea. As a result, drinking tea was seen as unpatriotic so coffee became the preferred drink. This was cemented by the American Revolution.

After the revolution, more and more American settlers were settling out west, and most among them were cowboys. A lot of cowboys got lured by the gold rush and as so were traveling long distances. Their daily herding of cattle also meant that they needed a lot of energy. Cowboys preferred coffee because it gave them the energy to work all day. In addition, it was an easy and quick drink to prepare while traveling long distances. 

Cowboys liked their coffee strong and dark. In addition,  the coffee was brewed in a large pot and was a way for the cowboys to relax by a fire and talk about their day. Often the coffee was kept strong by adding coffee grounds to the pot after the first round of coffee. 

How  Cowboy coffee is made

Cowboy Coffee is one of the most straightforward ways to make your coffee.  Which makes it perfect for camping or even when you’re in the mood to make coffee that doesn’t require much fuss. To make the coffee taste a bit richer, there is an option to add just a pinch of salt but it’s totally up to you. 

Most of the Cowboys didn’t use measuring when it comes to the coffee to water ratio, so if you want to go the OG way, it’s up to you to decide how much coffee you use.  For this recipe, we will use some measurements: for each cup of coffee you use, use a tablespoon of coffee.

Here is what you’ll need:

  • A pot
  • 4 cups of water 
  • 4 tablespoons of coffee ground

Steps:

  1. Start the fire if you’re really going the original way, or /turn on your stove highest setting;
  2. Pour the water in the pot;
  3. Once the water starts to boil, add a pinch of salt if you chose to make the coffee taste richer;
  4. Add the coffee grounds to the pot;
  5. Lower the heat, take the pot off the fire/stove and stir the grounds in;
  6. Put the pot back on the fire/stove and wait for about 2-5 minutes;
  7. Take the pot off the heat;
  8. Pour some cold water over the grounds that are on the surface of the water;
  9. Let the pot slightly cool so the coffee grounds can settle;
  10. The coffee is now ready to drink!

While Cowboy coffee is not the most complex way of brewing coffee, give it a try the next time you find yourself camping and you’ll feel like you’re in the Old Wild west!

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